An Indianapolis Star-USA Today investigation into sexual assault of young gymnasts has found hundreds of cases of athletes alleging abuse, as well as systemic failures that allowed abusive coaches to relocate to other gyms.
At least 368 gymnasts throughout the United States have alleged being the victim of some form of sexual abuse over the past 20 years, according to police files and court cases obtained throughout the nine-month investigation. A number of the victims were children, and almost all of them were girls, according to the Indianapolis Star.
More than 100 coaches, gym owners and other adults connected to the sport have been accused of abuse.
The Indianapolis Star also reports that USA Gymnastics failed to monitor predatory coaches, allowing them to move between USA Gymnastics-certified gyms without being tracked and not revoking their membership in the organization.
“It’s just too easy for coaches to keep getting hired and hired and hired. Sexual abuse thrives on the fact that people are embarrassed about the topic, ashamed to talk about it, and they keep quiet about it,” Nancy Hogshead-Makar, an Olympic gold-medal swimmer and CEO of the advocacy group Champion Women, told the Indianapolis Star.
“And that’s exactly why molesting coaches keep getting hired at the next place. Nobody talks about a coach that is inappropriate with athletes; the coach quietly moves away and gets hired someplace else.”
In a statement to the Indianapolis Star, USA Gymnastics said it is continually trying to improve efforts to protect member athletes.
“Nothing is more important to USA Gymnastics, the Board of Directors and CEO Steve Penny than protecting athletes, which requires sustained vigilance by everyone — coaches, athletes, parents, administrators and officials,” the organization said. “We are saddened when any athlete has been harmed in the course of his or her gymnastics career.”